After having been illegally experimented on by a shadow branch of the military bent on creating the perfect super soldier, Ulrick Lanston needed a place to relearn himself. Not only did they bond him with a massive jaguar, allowing him to turn into the cat at will, they’d messed with his brain, taking away his free will. After losing his handler and ending up at loose ends, Ulrick tracked down an old army acquaintance he could trust. That led him to Alpha Declan’s wolf shifter pack, and he’s been hiding out with them for over a year. They’ve helped him come to grips with the changes made to him, teaching him how to become one with the animal now living within him.
When Alpha Declan asks Ulrick to sneak into the territory of a coyote shifter pack to look for a missing pack member, he can’t say no. While doing reconnaissance, Ulrick runs across the prettiest coyote he’s ever seen. His jaguar wants to rub all over the wonderful-smelling shifter, marking him as his own. Ulrick knows what that means. His cat has decided the coyote is his mate.
Can Ulrick win the affections of the skittish coyote shifter and bring him home with him while still fulfilling his mission for Declan?
“Thank ye for agreein’ to help, Ulrick,” Alpha Declan McIntire rumbled. His lightly Irish-accented voice softened, turning serious. “It’s a delicate matter, and I can’t just claim foul play without proof.”
Ulrick Lanston nodded once. “I’m happy to help, Alpha,” he replied. Resting his coffee mug on his thigh, he eyed the large black man who shared his psyche with a huge wolf and could turn into the animal at will. “You and your people have done so much for me in the past year. It’s my honor to be able to repay you and yours in some small way.”
“Helping ye has been our honor,” Declan countered, even as his expression hardened. “What General Sackett did to you and others is beyond despicable,” he stated on a growl, his countenance darkening. “May the gods have mercy on the souls who didn’t make it through the process.”
Ulrick blinked, having not even considered that.
How many good men died being experimented on before the rogue science division figured out how to splice shifter DNA into a human?
For nearly eight years, Ulrick had been proud to be in the military. He’d worked hard and risen through the special forces ranks, becoming elite at black ops, often getting the opportunity to cherry-pick his crew for whatever assignment he’d been given. Ulrick couldn’t remember much of the assignment that had left him with life-threatening injuries, sending him to Doctor Winoan’s lab.
Memories of his years working under General Sackett as a zombie-like soldier—doing exactly what he was told and only what he was told—were hazy at best. Only recalling certain dates allowed him to piece together how long he’d been under the general’s control—over six years. Considering the bits Ulrick could recall—things that surfaced mostly in his dreams—he felt he was better off not knowing.
Ulrick had been out on assignment with his handler—a man he knew only as Sir Lentz—when General Sackett had disappeared. He knew now that the general was in the custody of the CIA. Sir Lentz had ordered Ulrick to remain in their motel room until he returned.
The man hadn’t returned, and Ulrick had nearly died from lack of food and water trying to follow that order. Fortunately, his survival abilities—ingrained in him from years of training and missions—had kicked in. Coupled with the lack of daily injections that had suppressed his shifter side, waking his jaguar’s instincts, Ulrick had slowly begun thinking for himself—food and shelter being at the top of his muddled brain’s priorities.
After several months of living alone in the woods, feeding off the land, Ulrick had begun recalling bits and pieces of his past. He’d remembered that he was special forces. He’d remembered a few bases that he’d lived at. Ulrick had also recalled the name of a fellow soldier that he knew he could trust—David Preston.
Ulrick had focused all his energy on tracking down his fellow soldier. To his surprise, David and his unit had also fallen prey to General Sackett. Their leader, however—Bailey Dyer—had escaped the complete process when his older brother, Ronan, had whisked him away from the facility.
Ronan had stumbled upon the wolf shifters, who’d not only believed his tales, but they’d dealt with similar issues in the past. The shifters had taken up the crusade of ridding the world of General Sackett and Doctor Winoan’s despicable activities. While Ulrick wasn’t part of the process, he knew the wolves felt they were nearly there, too.
When Ulrick had arrived in Stone Ridge—a small town tucked in the Colorado mountains and within Alpha Declan’s territory, which also gave them their name-sake—he’d discovered that he wasn’t the only one sneaking into the area. He’d revealed himself to David just enough to alarm the other soldier, putting the pack on alert. They’d caught the other guys, and Ulrick gained their help in figuring out his knew reality.
A new reality where I share my mind with that of a jaguar and can turn into that large cat at will.
Still strange to think about.
Tuning back in to what Alpha Declan was saying, Ulrick refocused on the alpha wolf shifter. He needed information, after all, if he were to help the man find his missing member.
“Two weeks ago, Jocomo went to visit his family in the coyote pack south of us,” Alpha Declan told him. “He’s supposed to check in every third day with my pack’s liaison, Cayden Rochette. Cayden informed me this morning that Jocomo has missed his last two check-ins.”
While curiosity wasn’t something Ulrick had indulged in in the past, he found bonding with a cat had changed that. He’d always thought the quip about curiosity killing the cat was just a saying. That wasn’t the case for the animal he now shared his psyche with. Ulrick’s beast loved exploring his forest home and sniffing at every new scent he came across.
Ulrick’s new-found curiosity had to be the reason he interrupted Alpha Declan, asking, “Jocomo is a wolf shifter, but his family lives with coyote shifters?” Tipping his head to the side a little, Ulrick mused, “Does that happen often?”
The corners of Alpha Declan’s lips twitched, and the lines of frustration there eased. “It happens often enough,” he told him. After a second of hesitation, Declan explained, “Jocomo’s mother is a wolf shifter. A pretty submissive one, from what Jocomo’s told me. His father’s a coyote shifter and runs the house.” After taking a sip of his own coffee, Declan told him, “Due to that, when they mated, I doubt anyone was surprised when they ended up living in the father’s coyote pack.”
Nodding slowly, Ulrick thought he understood. “So, their offspring could be a wolf shifter or a coyote shifter?” When he saw Declan nodding, he murmured, “I wonder how that’s determined.”
Declan shrugged. “Only the Fates know.”